By: Billy Cross
If you were to tell me Panos Cosmatos has a new movie out, I’m not exactly going to sprint to the theatre. Beyond the Black Rainbow was interesting at best. “Interesting” isn’t really a compliment when someone shows you their skull collection. No doubt, it had some stand-out visuals, but all of that was overshadowed by a plodding, forgettable story. Cosmotos’ new film, Mandy, inherits some of the issues from …Black Rainbow, but because of sheer insanity, it kind of clicks.
I’d advocate for the first half hour of fuzzed-out, synth-driven psychedelia that sets the mood for Cosmatos’ new movie, Mandy. Everything is drenched in a colorful gossamer, something akin to a vaseline-smeared lens, with stunning vistas filtered with this effect. The skies look straight out of the cover of a fantasy novel. Then there’s the titular character, Mandy (Andrea Riseborough), who wears black sabbath shirts, reads apocalyptic fantasy novels, and spends the day wandering the forest that surrounds her off-the-grid cottage. She sells the ethereal metal-head look. It’s all effectively hypnotic, certainly unlike any contemporary thing before it. Then the crazy hippies show up.
Mandy is really two movies in one. The first half belongs to Mandy, enveloped in atmospheric musings with hints of dread seeping in. Even moments with her lover, Red, are allude a sense of unease. I should probably mention, Red is played by Nicolas Cage. Also, he’s a lumberjack. A passive one at that. Well, his day is ruined when a van full of light-headed cultists, lead by Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache, who tries his best Cage impression here), pass through. Immersed in fuschia hues, Jeremiah catches a glimpse of Mandy. She is all he can think about. I will divulge no more than that.
The side B of the movie ditches the dreamy psychedelia for axe-grinding, chainsaw-wielding mania with Nic Cage at the wheel. Yes, Nic Cage goes on a rampage. That’s why we’re here right? For most of the second half, watching Cage forge axes, hunt demons, and annihilate a pile of cocaine after killing said demons is a wild fuckin’ time, but structure of it all drags. It plays out like a video game, schlepping us from boss fight to boss fight without any tension holding it all together. But when you have Nic Cage dueling with a chainsaw, who needs tension, am I right?
Mandy will have its fans. Those into culty midnight splatter films and doom metal aesthetics will find a lot to like here. Nic Cage is an obvious get. He’s doing what he does best, but I have to say Cage isn’t even going full Cage in this. He’s more reserved than people will tell you. Sure, there’s a couple scenes that he really eats up, especially one where he alternates between rage and grief while downing a bottle booze, but this ain’t no Bad Lieutenant Cage. It’s very much like his performance in an earlier 2018 movie, Mom and Dad. Still, he’s doing things you won’t see in any other movie, so it’s worth it for that. I wouldn’t say Mandy is an amazing movie, not particularly well-written, but there’s nothing like it right now as Cosmatos pushes his style in even more eclectic directions.